Walton leaves broadcasting for 'service'

Bill Walton, an ESPN NBA analyst since the network's coverage of the league began in the 2002-03 season, has decided not to return. He missed nearly all of last season while recovering from major back surgery.

"As I return after a grueling multiyear, life-threatening, life-changing ordeal with back problems, it is time to dedicate the rest of my life to service," Walton said in a statement Monday. "It is great to be back in the game. Thanks everybody -- for everything."

Walton, who turns 57 on Thursday, won two NCAA championships at UCLA in the 1970s when the Bruins were in the midst of their record 88-game winning streak.

Walton entered the NBA in 1977 and led the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA title. He was league MVP the following season and played for 14 seasons.

In 1993, Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Bill is a Hall of Fame talent, both as a player and broadcaster. NBA fans will miss his distinct personality," Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president for production, said in a statement. "We appreciate all of his contributions to ESPN and share best wishes toward continued health and happiness."